Friday, February 23, 2007

Unintended Consequences

If there is no God, then this world is a scary place to live. Without knowledge of everything and every relationship between everything, one cannot have sufficient knowledge to, in absolute confidence, answer anything.

This truth is highlighted in that cliche: "unintended consequences".

And this cliche was amply illustrated in one of my favorite news programs (and I really mean news!), John Stossel's 20/20. In this night's topic, "I Am Worry", he went through the many areas of life that American's live in fear because of exaggerated facts or mis-leading facts. And a number of laws and lawsuits included the nefarious unintended consequences. Safety lids on prescription bottles statistically encouraged open lids for the elderly (who did not want to try that ordeal again!) or sloppy supervision over the medications from parents who thought the bottle to be Johnny-proof. Helmet-wearing laws in Australia produced a noticeable decline in bicycle riding. Which in turn may mean less exercise.

Of course, even without Stossel's report we can see these problems in everyday life. For instance, "sin" taxes do not discourage smoking, rather they drain the smokers income. Or the use of prison time instead of death for murderers. This drains the economy, encamps the same criminals in the same spaces with (now) obvious consequences of rape, expansion of criminal skills and basic isolation from any good influences. The list of socialistic ills could easily be added.

However, if these laws and ideas took the Bible more seriously, then some of these consequences would be more manageable. After all, would not the Creator of the universe and all the consequences that attend it know best? Thus, as our founding fathers attempted to build into our Constitutional system, the government has a limited role. Just as in the Bible.

If we are to avoid the unintended consequences of an ever-increasing regulated economy, amoral politicians and confusion over what laws should be enacted locally or federally, we need the Word of God. The Bible delimits the choice of law because the Creator wrote the laws and the consequences that attend them. He knows what is best.

The unbeliever lives in a chaotic world in which he attempts to impose order. This is why many laws are in flux: the socio-economic leaders have decided the previous leaders impositions were not working. As new variables arise new implications arise. Debates over nature versus nurture or even medical usage and imposition ebb and flow as more information arises. Yet without a consistent framework in which to interpret said facts the answer will never be forthcoming. Man knows least.

If unintended consequences teach us anything, it should teach us that we know very little of the relationships and results of our sciences, economies and policies. It should humble us. It should turn us to the All-Wise Creator who already has the answers for us: His Bible.


No comments: